Aug 08, 2020ashleyung rated this title 4.5 out of 5 stars
Set in the late 1920s in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Passing centers on the reunion of two childhood friends- Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry- and the development of their reignited relationship.
Passing, in sociological terms, refers to the ability of someone who identifies with one identity group- such as racial identity, social class, or sexual orientation- who can “pass”, or be regarded, for another.
In the novel, both Irene and Clare are African-American/Caucasian biracial women who can pass for white. However, the greatest divergence of their relationship is that Irene has chosen to openly embrace her African-American ancestry whereas Clare has fully “passed over” and only identifies as white. Their reunion instigates a rapidly growing sense of curiosity for how the other lives in society.
Through Passing, Larsen, a biracial woman herself, expands on what it means to be biracial and how such categorization isn’t as distinct as most believe for it to be. In addition to the topic of race, Larsen seamlessly incorporates other themes- such as feminism, classism, sexuality, and mental illness- in the novel, providing for an intricately crafted text of intersectionality.
Furthermore, Larsen’s style of writing is very fluid and similar to that of someone’s running thoughts. For some readers, this may make the novel difficult to interpret, yet the constant hyphenation and deep introspection heightens the ambiguity of the plot, not unlike the concept of passing itself.
I highly recommend this novel because, despite its shorter length, it is rich with the discussion of so many important topics, and it encourages readers to further research and have open conversations about such topics.